Return to work following unilateral enucleation in 34 horses (2000-2008)

Mary Utter, K. L. Wotman, K. R. Covert

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

15 Scopus citations


Reasons for study: The effect of unilateral enucleation on vision and potential loss of performance in horses has received little study. Objective: To evaluate the likelihood of return to prior discipline following unilateral enucleation in horses, assessing the role of age at enucleation, equine discipline, reason for enucleation, time to vision loss and eye enucleated. Hypothesis: Unilateral enucleation has no significant effect on likelihood of return to work in horses, for both right and left eyes, across age and discipline. Method: A retrospective review of medical records identified 92 horses that underwent unilateral enucleation at the University of Pennsylvania New Bolton Center from April 2000-April 2008. Case variables determined from the medical record included breed and sex of horse, age at enucleation, which eye was enucleated, reason for enucleation and onset of vision loss. Pre- and post operative occupations were determined by telephone interview with the owner or trainer of each horse. Results: Based on hospital surgery logs, 92 enucleations were performed over the 8 year period and 77 records were available for review, with follow-up information available for 34 horses. Of these, 29/34 (85%) horses returned to work in pleasure or trail riding (11/13), flat racing (7/10), hunter/ jumpers (4/4), dressage (3/3), group lessons (1/1), eventing (1/1), steeplechase (1/1) and as a broodmare (1/1). Four of 5 horses (4/34, or 12% sample) that did not return to work (2 pleasure and 2 racing) were retired due to anticipated or perceived decrease in performance or behaviour change following unilateral enucleation, with the remaining horse retired from racing for lameness issues unrelated to enucleation. Twenty-two of 25 horses (88%) with acute vision loss and 7/9 horses (78%) with gradual vision loss returned to their previous discipline. Conclusions: Horses are able to return to a variety of occupations after unilateral enucleation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)156-160
Number of pages5
JournalEquine Veterinary Journal
Issue number2
StatePublished - Mar 1 2010
Externally publishedYes


  • Enucleation
  • Horse
  • Ophthalmology
  • Unilateral
  • Work

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Equine


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